How to Avoid Hidden Chemicals in Finger Paints

How to Avoid Hidden Chemicals in Finger PaintsI’m sure you’ve heard about skin patches that deliver medication directly to the bloodstream, right?  Many substances are readily taken up into the bloodstream, so it’s important to know what’s coming in contact with your child’s skin.

Don’t panic!  It’s still possible for your little one to safely enjoy finger painting.

Chemicals of Concern in Finger Paint

  • Toluene: can cause damage to the kidneys, liver and reproductive system. It’s also classified as a developmental toxicant, which means it can harm developing children and cause birth defects.  It can be found in clay, tempura paint and finger paints.
  • Ethylene glycol: suspected to harm the reproductive and respiratory systems. It may also cause developmental damage.
  • Synthetic dyes: some pigments contain highly toxic metals such as arsenic, cadmium or lead.

Safer Options Abound

Ready-to-use natural finger paints like Eco-kidsNuno Organic and Wee Can Too are convenient options (albeit more expensive).  My friend Jen, of Jen and Joey Go Green, also recommends Earth Paints, which is made from naturally colored clay that is collected from the ground, dried, crushed and sifted into pure pigment.

Earth Paints have many additional benefits including that they are made in the USA. The kit we were sent costs $19.99 and based on the amount I used and how many paintings we got out of it I can see it easily lasting for at least 100 paintings.

If you’re willing to give up the convenience, it may be more affordable to invest in natural food colors and less expensive household ingredients in bulk for the following easy DIY recipe:


  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups cold water
  • Natural coloring (make your own or use pre-made colors such as India Tree)


  • Combine all ingredients except coloring in a medium saucepan.
  • Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Divide into containers and add coloring.
  • Note: this homemade finger paint works best when used right away.  It’s washable, but you’ll want to cover anything that isn’t stain resistant before painting.

Click here to find more non-toxic art supply recipes

photo credit: LearningLark via photopin cc

Anna@Green Talk
Anna@Green Talk

Alicia many of those chemicals are in our building products too.  But it is really scary to think they are in finger paint!

Eco novice
Eco novice

P.S. Alicia, how did you find out what regular finger paints are made of? Are all conventional brands of concern?

Eco novice
Eco novice

That Planetpals link is awesome! Thanks for the DIY resource.